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Site Last Update: 14 Dec, 2019
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Summary of Book African Proverbs and Proverbial Names
by Jonathan Musere

Los Angeles, CA: Ariko Publications, 1999
210 pages.
ISBN 0-9645969-2-X


                     This is the first book that comprehensively illustrates the relationships between African proverbs and proverbial names. Though many African personal names are of proverbial origin, the issue has not been adequately researched. Close to 700 Ganda (Uganda) proverbs are heavily explored and referenced. The literature in this book is of the Baganda people of Uganda who form the largest ethnic group in the nation. They have an impressive array of oral and written literature and their language, Luganda, is the most widely spoken local language in Uganda.

                     A mix of such issues as metaphor, wisdom, sarcasm, happiness, misery, humor, instruction, disappointment, praise, affection, ethics, royal and civil roles, etiquette, past and present modes of human interaction, friendship, enmity, religion and war is communicated in African proverbial language. Proverbs and idioms are some of the most efficient windows into African culture. Personal names associated with proverbs serve as milestone reminders of significant happenings in the life or family of the person named.

                     It can be quite a task to translate meaning from a language and culture that is significantly different from others. Even after lengthy interpretation, concepts and rationale in African culture can appear perplexing to a non-African mind. Nevertheless, the hundreds of proverbs and names in this book are given detailed explanation and referencing. Pronunciation is attached to the names. Common proverbs from other cultures, that are synonymous with ones here, are in many cases given to further clarify meaning. There are thousands of Ganda proverbs not mentioned in this book that have never been sufficiently interpreted in print. Indigenous African information continues to "disappear" because of inadequate research attention.

                     African Proverbs and Proverbial Names is intended, through proverbs, to give the reader a diverse understanding and appreciation of African societal dynamics. The book also serves as a naming guide on which those of African descent and those with interest in Africa can ponder. The information is presented so as to be easily comprehensible to the general reader. Furthermore, the book serves as a general circulation and reference book in the academic arena. Academics in such fields as anthropology, history, literature, linguistics, philosophy, psychology, and sociology with reference to Africanism would benefit. The book is relevant to such sub fields as cultural anthropology, etymology, folklore, onomastics, and sociolinguistics.

Some Ganda proverbs mentioned in the book are:

a.       Eyawukana ku mugendo, y'efuuka kaasa. "The reddish-brown soldier ant that separates from the trail, is the one that becomes the black soldier ant which travels singly and bites fiercely."

b.      Omuddo gw'oluyiira, n'atalina mbuzi agwegomba. "The luxuriant green grass that grows following the slashing and burning is looked forward to even by the one who does not own a goat."

c.       Omugano gw'enswa, tiguleka mukadde waka. "A swarm of edible flying ants lures every elder to come out of the house."

d.      Kasakkya: n'atayanike abuuza omusana. "That the rain may let up for a spot of the sun: even the one who will not put anything out to dry asks about the sunshine."

e.       Omwogezi mutambuze; bw'akoowa, awummula. "A talker is (like) a traveler; when the person gets tired he or she rests."

f.        Ssentamu nkadde togiteresa munno. "You would not entrust an old cooking pot to the care of a friend."

                     Some of the proverbial names related to these proverbs are: "Mutambuze" ("traveler"); "Mwogezi" ("talker" or "speaker"); "Musana" ("sun"); and "Ssentamu" ("old cooking pot").

                     Some other favorite proverbs and proverbial names in the book African Proverbs and Proverbial Names are:

g.       Nkoko njeru yeeyoleka kamunye. "A white-feathered hen is so conspicuous to the hawk." The proverbial names are "Nkoko" ("hen"); "Nkokonjeru" ("white-feathered hen"); and "Kamunye" ("hawk").

h.       Ennaku ennungi, tezikya bbiri. "Two good days do not dawn in a row." The proverbial names are "Nnaku" ("days"); "Tezikya" ("the days do not dawn"); and "Tezikyabbiri" ("the days do not dawn in succession").

i.         Abayita ababiri, bejjukanya. "Two who travel together, remind each other." The proverbial names are: "Bayita" ("they travel through"); and "Bejjukanya" ("they remind each other").

                     There are some places in Uganda named Nkokonjeru and Abayita-Ababiri.

Jonathan Musere
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